Lunch at Pizzeria Mozza

Squash blossom, burrata, and tomato pizza at Pizzaria Mozza in Los Angeles, California

 

Even as the end of 2007 approached with the typical abundance of holiday food and wine, I still wondered what treats I’d encounter in 2008. Luckily I received a tasty hint during New Year’s Eve lunch at Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles with our friends Joanne, Jon, and Justin.

Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery partnered with New York restaurant kings Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich to open Pizzeria Mozza in November 2006, and her airy, crispy pizza crust, cooked in a wood-burning oven, has been lauded from coast to coast. And while it certainly lives up to the hype, the toppings–particularly the amazing array of fresh cheeses–also blew me away. From a look around the restaurant, I wasn’t alone.

But then again, it’s impossible to be alone at Mozza. As soon as we walked into the rather small, maroon-hued space, we noticed that the room was packed. Everyone in LA had the same idea about how they wanted to start the new year, and for once it included carbs.

After we sat down at a large, circular table, we perused the lengthy Italian wine list and experimented with a few quartinos (.25 liters of wine served in small carafes, equaling about a glass and a half) while we waited for our antipasti. We devoured the arancine alla bolognese, small, fried balls of gooey rice and cheese topped with a light meat sauce, as soon as they arrived, while Justin declared his serving of bufala mozzarella the best he had ever tried. As he passed the plate around the table and allowed the rest of us to taste slivers of the gleaming, milky orb, we all agreed, and subsequently stole a second bite.

And then the personal-size pizzas started to arrive. The boys went with a variety of meat-lover’s pies, with ingredients including (but not limited to) bacon, salami, and house-cured fennel sausage, as well as chiles, pineapple, and jalapenos. Leaving the men to their meat-induced ecstasy, Joanne and I did a slice-swap, allowing me to taste her pie of speck, bufala mozzarella, olive tapenade, and oregano ($18).

I had ordered the squash blossom, burrata, and tomato pizza ($18). As I took my first bite it was clear the cross-country praise was justified. The crust was indeed incredible–flaky, crispy, airy, chewy, you name it–but I was also enthralled with the burrata cheese, a creamy, milky mass of freshness adding to the rustic effect of the charred greens and hand-pulled pizza crust.

Steven Jenkins’s Cheese Primer describes burrata as a Southern Italian cheese made from remnants of mozzarella and cream enclosed in a “bag” of pulled curds, creating a smooth, cool cloud of creamy delight. Get ready New Yorkers: Burrata dominated California’s menus from Sonoma to Los Angeles. I have only seen burrata advertised at my Italian gourmet market, but I’m hoping to welcome it to my favorite local restaurants as soon as possible.

We ended our pizza feast with a variety of house-made gelato and then poured into our cars for the next destination. (I felt so very LA.) I hoped that our Pizzeria Mozza experience indicated positive things for the rest of 2008. With amazing pizza, a new favorite cheese, and great friends, how could the year go wrong?

Pizzeria Mozza, 641 North Highland, Los Angeles, California  T: 323-297-0101. Osteria Mozza is located next door with a more formal menu and a mozzarella bar. Reservations are recommended.

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